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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13221/lebron-and-the-collectivist-mentality/

LeBron and the Collectivist Mentality

July 10, 2010 by

I propose that there’s a difference between bigotry and racism. Bigotry simply means you don’t like a particular group, e.g., “I hate those filthy Klingon bastards.” Racism is a subset of collectivism; it’s a set of beliefs about how you expect different groups to behave within the social order. Not every chattel slave-master, I’d imagine, hated Africans, but they clearly believed there was a “proper place” for these individuals, and any failure to conform to such expectations justified, in the racist’s mind, actions to compel such conformance.

My subject today isn’t slavery, however, but LeBron James, a 25-year-old professional basketball player. James is certainly no slave; he recently left the Cleveland Cavaliers and agreed to join the Miami Heat as a free agent where he’ll earn millions of dollars. Still, James is the ongoing target of one of the most vehement public racism campaigns in recent memory. And when I say racism, I don’t mean he’s being targeted because he’s African-American. That type of racism is generally taboo. James is a professional athlete, which is one of the few groups the mainstream press not only condones racism against, but also actively promotes.

You might say it’s ridiculous to label “professional athletes” as a racial group. But racial groups are not exclusively determined by genetic characteristics like skin color. Most religious and cultural groups are defined by voluntary participation. Professional athletes certainly constitute a racial-cultural group.

LeBron James grew up in poverty, raised by a teenage single mother. In high school, the press took notice of his considerable basketball skills, which ultimately enabled him to forego college basketball and enter the NBA directly. The NBA — which bizarrely assigns talented new players based on random chance — sent him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, near James’s hometown of Akron, Ohio. This created a presumption, both within Cleveland and the larger national press corps, that James was Cleveland’s “savior,” a man who would not only avenge the city’s past sports losses, but somehow help revive the economically stagnant region.

It didn’t come to pass. James’s Cavaliers teams enjoyed regular-season success but never won an NBA championship. And for some reason, James’s mere presence did not magically undo decades of disastrous government intervention in Ohio’s economy. James simply went out every night and provided the basketball-entertainment the customers paid to see.

James clearly came to the realization that he would not attain all his own professional goals in Cleveland. When his contract expired, he listened to offers from other teams. Ultimately, he decided to join two of his talented friends, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, in Miami, where Wade won an NBA championship a few years earlier. It’s the type of personal business decision people make every day without incident. Every actor in the marketplace seeks his own ends through chosen means. James decided the best way to seek a championship was playing with his friends.

The media — and certainly Cleveland fans — disagreed. A wave of rage overcame newspapers, television, and the Internet (which, luckily, is accustomed to such events). A number of consensus talking points quickly emerged: First and foremost, he “abandoned” his hometown; it wasn’t leaving Cleveland so much as how he left; he had the nerve to announce his decision in a primetime television special; he’s a “coward” for not leading a team in Cleveland, or even New York or Chicago, but joining a group of stars in Miami; and so on.

The faux-expletive that appears in almost all anti-James screeds is “narcissism.” He’s a narcissist! The press seems to think this is a fancy synonym for “selfish,” which is what they really mean. Calling James “selfish,” however, doesn’t quite have enough stinging power. Calling him a “narcissist” implies there’s something ethically (or mentally) wrong with him. I’ve certainly heard no shortage of media types explain James’s tortured internal psyche — despite the fact they’ve never met or talked to him.

More importantly, the “narcissism” charge is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. Narcissism is the foundation upon which most of the press corps is built. Just read this Bill Simmons column on ESPN.com. Sportswriters and sports pundits exist to place themselves and their needs at the center of every discussion. It’s about their thoughts, their emotions, and their needs. The notion that athletes might have any thoughts, emotions, or needs of their own is treated with derision and contempt.

It’s laughable to accuse James of narcissism when he turned down a chance to stay in Cleveland, where he’d be worshipped by locals and applauded by the press, to go to Miami, a less sports-driven market where he knows he’ll share the spotlight with two other players. That’s pretty much the antithesis of narcissism. As for the notion that James’s decision-making itself was narcissistic — holding a prime-time special, et al. — that again was an example of narcissism by the media, not James. By all accounts, ESPN officials approached James’s representatives about a “decision” special months ago. The press as a whole already hyped James’s decision without any prompting from him. Smartly, he decided to capitalize on the process for his own interests, agreeing to an exclusive ESPN special in exchange for a portion of the advertising revenue (which he donated to his preferred charity). Again, this was a fairly unremarkable business decision.

The criticism of James really boils down to, “He failed to meet our pre-conceived expectations about how to behave.” The one talking point that brings this home is the bizarre idea that he’s diminished his “legacy” or “greatness” by joining forces with two other All-Stars in their prime rather then competing against them for championships. “Michael Jordan never joined his competition, he beat them,” is a refrain I’ve read from several hacks. (Gee, I wonder how many sportswriters were FTC merger-review lawyers in a former life.) There’s no reason that James should be bound to the storylines of former athletic greats, but of course, the press deals in storylines — controlling them is how they purportedly provide value to the market.

This line of argument also suggests James should have made an emotional decision not supported by rational economic analysis. (And I don’t mean the type of “analysis” Tyler Cowen offered). I don’t claim to be a basketball expert, but from the outside looking in, it strikes me that James simply believed he couldn’t win a championship in Cleveland. Perhaps the best evidence of this was Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s remarkable screed — later backed by an Associated Press interview and a comparison to Benedict Arnold — labeling James an ungrateful traitor to the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland. I won’t reprint Gilbert’s ravings here, but suffice to say, it’s the sort of flaming email that would get a mid-level manager fired on the spot, to say nothing of a CEO.

It’s also notable that just after this past NBA season, Gilbert fired his general manager and head coach. There wasn’t a peep from the press about “disloyalty” to the fired executives — even though they were part of the most successful run in franchise history — and no suggestion that such institutional instability might affect a key employee’s decision to leave.

Once again, we’re talking about a fairly routine business situation. We’ve all known or worked for toxic bosses who caused valuable employees to leave for better-managed firms. By all accounts that’s what James did. He left Gilbert’s dysfunctional Cavaliers for a Miami franchise run by Pat Riley, one of the most successful coach-executives in NBA history. (I also find it interesting that Gilbert amassed his fortune in mortgage lending and casinos, while Miami owner Micky Arison built his in cruise ships.)

Now I started this post by discussing racism. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that any criticism of James or his decision-making is ill founded or racist. I’ve heard reasonable basketball minds differ as to whether James might be closer to a championship in Chicago or New York. Such debate is normal and fun. What I’m critical of is the collective consciousness of the press harping on nonsensical talking points that seek to portray James as somehow antisocial or mentally unbalanced. I believe such criticism originates from the false belief that professional athletes like James must conform their behavior to social norms that the critics themselves would not adhere to. When you single out a particular group of individuals and demand they act in a way that differs from the rest of society, that is straight-up, no-holds-barred racism.

We’re not just talking about James and his free agency. Racism also drives statist acts like the drug-testing hysteria and the recent Tiger Woods media circus. At its core, there’s a belief that professional athletes are entitled to a lesser degree of rights and social respect simply because of who they are. The rationalization is always, “Well, they make a lot of money, so they owe us,” but choosing to offer one’s services in the marketplace does not justify racism. And while I wouldn’t compare the criticism of James to a defense of chattel slavery, I would note that both are the progeny of a common ancestor in collectivism. The moment you stop judging individuals and start falling back on preconceived notions of what social groups exist and how they should behave, you’ve abandoned the ethical foundations of libertarianism and free markets.


michael July 10, 2010 at 9:39 am

LeBron James is not being excoriated due to crypto-racism, overt racism or any other kind of racism. We’re well beyond that, at least in the sports world. He’s being vilified because he’s a big fat jerk. And the people of Cleveland who supported him feel they’ve been made fools of.

It’s customary for superstars to be at least a tiny bit humble, and to not miss an opportunity to say they owe it all to their fans. And to thank the fans for their support, without which their victories would not be as sweet. Not LeBron.

He’s all ego. He’s unconscious of any need to talk to his fans. When asked why he left his home in Cleveland he just said “I want to win”. Meaning Cleveland’s just for losers.

People don’t like that. Had LeBron instead been Samoan or Polish, their response would have been the same.

mpolzkill July 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

Now I’ve read the article, have you really, Michael? How on earth can you read this post and then say: “Had LeBron instead been Samoan or Polish….”? Man, what a putz.

- – - – -


You hit on it, but I think it’s the number one factor with the media men: most of their rage comes from having the narrative (which you aptly describe) ruined.

In college football the media used to have a lot more control of their fairy tales. In 1990, for instance they crowned one of the weakest champs ever, a team without even the most successful season among other teams that year and with quite possibly the least successful championship season in history, and they were chosen solely because of this malarky:


The coaches that year crowned the team with the most successful season (and I’m not from Georgia).

side note:

I don’t think the lottery is bizarre and it’s not really random. There would be PR problems with an attempt to rationally distribute players and there isn’t an impartial head at any rate. They stopped doing a strictly reverse-order draft based on team records because bad teams were tanking games (or perceived to). The lottery for the top three players doesn’t include every team. And furthermore, people who are prone to suspect conspiracies (me) believe that the lottery is often rigged.

S.M. Oliva July 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I think it’s “bizarre” in the sense that I cannot think of another industry or non-sports firm that allocates top incoming talent by a (somewhat) random distribution to the weaker-performing divisions. Really, the problem is the draft system and the large number of franchises that survive primarily through league and government subsidies.

mpolzkill July 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Well, (and not to beat it to death I hope), pro sports is a bizarre business, I guess you could say. There is a great desire among many for parity. It seems only the NFL has really acheived that. (I think that’s true; over the years I’ve pretty much checked out of the whole circus part of the equation in our Roman model, though it’s still so damned fun)

J. Murray July 12, 2010 at 6:03 am

Well, it depends no how you look at the league. The NBA is trying to copy the NFL, treat the entire league as a single business entity. Sports, as you’ve observed, does have a loyalty component, mainly among the fans (customer). The NBA is attempting to even out the competitive skill among the franchises to maintain interest in each market.

Unlike, say, a Burger King franchise that competes with a McDonald’s franchise, sporting leagues effectively compete against itself in addition to other leagues. Each business segment relies on the other business segments in a symbiotic fashion. While each franchise may have a private owner, the lisence grantor (the NBA) is attempting to set rules to maintain competitive parity amongst the teams.

This is to maintain interest in each market for the NBA brand. When one business arm starts to falter, the corporate office will boost its performance capabilities to remain competitive. Because, really, what good is the NBA if teams were capable of putting others out of business?

Think of a sports league in the same manner as a production line. The segments work together to produce a final product. How well would Ford run if the transmission group had to compete with the automobile frame group and could put them under? What we see is competition on the surface, but in reality that is the final product being sold to the customer, one made up of two teams effectively working together to provide the service. Sure, none of this is going through the minds of the franchise owners or players, but the NBA executives have this well in mind when they made the decision to send high talent new players off to weak teams.

Because the Heat can’t put the Cavaliers out of business the same way that other businesses do. The Heat can’t just convince Cleveland fans to watch their team instead. The reality is if the Cavaliers do poorly, all it results in is less business for the NBA. The Heat gain no new customers, the Cavaliers go under, and the NBA as a business is worse off.

While I agree that the government subsidies have to go, there isn’t a subsidy when the NBA sends resources to underperforming segments. Think of it not as a subsidy, but as a capital investment.

The NBA is attempting to replicate the NFL. In the NFL, even the worst team of one season has a legitimate shot at winning it all the next year and the prior year champion can end up in the cellar. That’s likely one reason the NFL is doing so well. The NFL operates like a conglomerate. The divisions send a portion of their profits up to corporate to be reinvested elsewhere. We just hear it by the chosen name of “revenue sharing”.

S.M. Oliva July 10, 2010 at 9:45 am

michael –

Thank you for proving my point.

mpolzkill July 10, 2010 at 9:49 am

Michael, you reek of collectivism with your every sentence.

(Ha, I swear I just came here straight to Michael’s comment and didn’t even notice the title of this piece till now)

michael July 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

You’re an easy one to rankle. Where’s the ‘collectivism’? Sports as a pastime and as an industry has to do with the public. Was I supposed to only comment in such a way as to make the public invisible?

LBJ is where he is because he is a public figure. And he’s treated his public very badly. Despite that, Miami will probably make money on him.

mpolzkill July 11, 2010 at 8:40 am


collectivism: emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity


We’re well beyond that (racism)

He’s all ego

Cleveland’s just for losers (strained attribution of James’s collectivist thinking)

People don’t like that

- – - – - – - –

Rankled? I’m just getting warmed up.

How do you know “we’re” well beyond that, anyways? Because “we” voted for some obscure crook “we” knew next-to-nothing about, other than the color of his skin? Racialism will be with us as long as morons are.

I know you said “at least in the sports world”, but as usual, you’re wrong there too. William below mention Gerry Cooney. Watch for an amazing surge in the popularity of boxing if an American of even Cooney’s meagre talent, weight and pigmentation were to emerge today.

michael July 13, 2010 at 9:30 am

Point taken. You want to fight over it. Whatever.

Brad July 10, 2010 at 10:25 am

One thing you forgot to mention is that the Cavaliers did very little to provide LeBron with a supporting cast, yet the collectivists still expect him to stay in Cleveland and continue losing in the playoffs every year. I noticed while watching the ESPN special where he announced his decision that Cleveland had $11 million of cap room to spend to bring in a player to help LeBron win (as I understand it, resigning players doesn’t count against the cap in the NBA). If they’re going to call LeBron “selfish,” maybe he would benefit from reading Ayn Rand to understand why selfishness is actually a virtue.

I can remember when I was in government school how my overpaid teachers would always whine and complain all the time about how they (and other “public servants”) weren’t paid millions of dollars like professional athletes are. I don’t see the need to explain why teachers aren’t underpaid, as I think most everybody reading already knows this.

It is also pretty obvious that the journalists disdain for the athletes they write about goes back to high school, when the athletes had a higher status at the school than the future journalists writing for the school newspaper. The jealously of many journalists is especially noticeable whenever there are stories about the love life of pro athletes.

S.M. Oliva July 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm

As I said, I’m not an NBA fan, so I cannot comment on what Cleveland should’ve done from a basketball standpoint. But based on recent events, I’d say Cleveland’s organization is simply unable to attract or acquire top talent. Mr. Gilbert’s post-Thursday actions would strongly suggest he is a major part of the problem.

David J. Heinrich July 10, 2010 at 11:04 am


LeBron James doesn’t owe the fans in Cleveland anything. They paid to watch him play basketball; no one forced them to pay, they chose to. He provided them with great entertainment and played excellent basketball. That is it. There is no further obligation, beyond normal rules of civility. James doesn’t “owe it all to the fans”. The fans haven’t given him anything. They paid for a service which he provided.

It is the fans burning his jerseys who are the ones being narcissistic and uncivilized. LeBron James has been with the Cavaliers for 7 years. He still hasn’t won an NBA championship because a good team was not built around him. Given that he wants to win an NBA championship — a reasonable goal for a great basketball player — he needs to go elsewhere. But small-minded fans apparently think that he “owes” them something.

As Oliva said, it is just idiotic collectivist reasoning along with ridiculous notions of positive obligations that LeBron somehow has to Cleveland, despite not agreeing to them.

This dovetails with a similar attitude that those in the paparazzi have about harassing celebrities: they somehow “accepted it” and “can’t object” because they chose to be famous and live in the “spotlight”.

michael July 10, 2010 at 8:38 pm

“LeBron James doesn’t owe the fans in Cleveland anything. They paid to watch him play basketball; no one forced them to pay, they chose to. He provided them with great entertainment and played excellent basketball. That is it. There is no further obligation, beyond normal rules of civility.”

I’ve seen your attitude before. Not that I understand it. But some years back, in DC ghettos like Shaw, a lot of young guys would wear t-shirts with the legend “Don’t ask me for s**t”.

That’s fine. If you want to be that way it’s nothing to me. But most people I know wouldn’t want you for a neighbor. They like players who sign balls for the kids who idolize them.

David J. Heinrich July 11, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Sure, it is normal to like players who sign balls for kids. And that is one thing players are “kind of” expected to do, although it isn’t mandatory. .

What people seem to be asking LeBron is something else: stay with an organization that hasn’t built a championship team around him in 7 years. Why would he? It is also ridiculous to call him “cowardly”, in reference to how MJ didn’t leave the Bulls to go play on the Lakers, for example. The Chicago Bulls built a great team around him, with another great star and a great supporting cast. That hasn’t happened for James.

william potter July 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm


that putz bill simmons also had an article a couple of months ago saying that the scandal that tiger woods was going throught was tougher than the boxing ban placed on muhammed ali for not registering for the draft. not only was ali banned from the sport for three years in his prime he came back and fought the best like frazier, foreman, cooney, and norton. somehow mickelson,els, and vijay aren’t quite in the same league as these heavyweights who were part of the heavyweight golden age. all that said i wish mises.org would do some more articles on boxing and realize that it is the most libertarian sport out there. boxers are only paid by the amount of fan interest they can generate, their is no league or minimum pay, many boxers come from around the world and are able to get out of poor neighborhoods, they do demand taxpayer funded stadiums but usually fight in private casinos, they choose who they are going to fight and can move up or down in weight class, are judged by their last performance as a determinant to how much they will get paid. for instance evander holyfield continues to fight and has a bigger name than chad dawson but no television network is willing to buy his fights because he fights nobodies and he is washed up whereas chad dawson exemplifies excellent boxing technique and seeks to fight the best available competition.

S.M. Oliva July 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Of course, boxing is the only major sport where one must get a “license” from a state agency to participate. But your points are well taken.

mpolzkill July 10, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Nice post, William, but there’s two things wrong with “Ali…fought the best like…Cooney”

newson July 10, 2010 at 7:54 pm

hear, hear. not to mention the opprobrium this sport attracts from the political correct – brain damage, celebration of violence, testosterone, etc.

htran July 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I’m sorry, but there is another side to this story.

LeBron basked in the glow of glory, having no problems being called The King or The Chosen One. He did his powder routine at the beginning of games. Intentionally or unintentionally, he did string Cleveland along by promising to bring the hometown team a championship. To leave in such a spectacle fashion, after allowing such showboating to be a part of his persona, is a scumbag move.

I have no problem with his personal decision to play wherever he wants, and yes, some fans and the owner did overreact. But LeBron is certainly not blameless. By the way, I actually dislike LeBron and think he did quit on his team during the Boston series.

Mike July 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Racism? I think you meant discrimination.

william potter July 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm

sm oliva,

you are right about the licensing structure but fighters can and do routinely fight overseas so i would imagine foreign international licensing departments are nonexistant or not as predatory as in the states. Oh yeah fighters can also have advertising on their trunks and their backs and are routinely sponsored by tecate beer or condom depot.com. also the mma fighters have to get licenses and i would imagine that professional leagues with their union membership requirements act as a defacto licensing organization.

Brent July 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Tyler Cowen’s comments were some of the stupidest he’s ever written. NPR must have loved it… see what freedom does? It reduces social utility!

william potter July 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm

you are right mpolzkill it was jerry quarry and not gerry cooney. cooney came a boxing generation after Ali.

Dave Albin July 10, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Excellent – the comparisons of collectivism and racism were thought provoking. Also, don’t forget that Florida has no state income tax – he’ll be “saving” (not losing through theft) millions.

MBW July 11, 2010 at 11:34 am

When I watch sports I don’t care who wins and who loses, so long as after the game everyone is free to act in his own best professional interest.

TokyoTom July 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

Skip, I agree with much of your post, particularly in your criticisms of reporters, but it seems to me more than a bit blind as to community/tribal dynamics, and overly doctrinaire as a result. Understanding such dynamics may help you. I’ll try not to wax too prolix.

Let me start off with a copy of a Twitter post I made yesterday:

“@naufalsanaullah Diff btwn Lebron,Goldman? GS just rich ppl ripping us off;were never on OUR side;LeBron BETRAYS by switching allegiance”


Man has an exquisite moral sense, that we acquired via the process of evolution, as an aid to intra-group cooperation. Our moral sense, rituals and “sacred postulates” (later, religions) have played a central role in the evolution of man as a social animal, by providing a fundamental way of ordering the world, the group`s role in it, and the individual`s role in the group – thereby abating commons problems both within and created by the group. While we certainly have made progress (partly with the aid of “universal” religions) in expanding the boundaries of our groups, we very much remain group, tribal animals, fiercely attentive to rival groups and who is within or outside our group, and this tribal nature is clearly at work in our cognition (our penchant for finding enemies, including those who have different religious beliefs that ours). http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/08/28/fun-with-self-deception-those-who-espouse-an-quot-objective-quot-moral-order-act-refuse-to-elucidate-or-act-as-if-there-is-none.aspx

You condemn “collectivism” but ignore that all men live in and rely on communities. The tribal reactions of Clevelanders to Lebron’s decision to leave them, and their perception of the cavalier manner in which he “stabbed them in the back”, are quite understandable. Attempts to apply moral suasion is a natural, instinctive behavior, and one that some libertarians (Richman and Callahan: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2010/06/17/as-callahan-and-richman-laud-consumer-moral-pressure-on-polluters-others-tell-us-a-bp-boycott-is-stupid.aspx) deliberately endorse, and that others like you also reflexively resort to.

Such reactions are particularly strong in sports, which serves as a proxy for war. In this arena, LeBron James is seen not as a simple mercenary, but as a hometown champion,which makes his decisions to leave and the way he announced it even more difficult for locals to bear.

In railing against such reactions, you are not simply spitting into the wind of human nature, but essentially manifesting a similar reflexive group reaction.

The existence of similar groupthink and tribal reactions at LvMI is behind much of the hostility to enviros, including little ol’ me.

See also my comments to Stephan Kinsella here: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/12/20/what-is-quot-property-quot-a-few-weird-thoughts-on-evolution-society-quot-property-rights-quot-and-quot-intellectual-property-quot-and-the-principles-we-structure-to-justify-them.aspx



PS: Sorry if this is a bit scattered; it’s late here, and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open until the World Cup final.

mpolzkill July 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm


As long aren’t like the other 99.99 percent or so of other “enviros” (statists), I for one don’t have any problem with any fetish you might have.

mpolzkill July 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm

* As long as you aren’t

TokyoTom July 12, 2010 at 1:29 am

mpolzkill, thanks for the comment. I have damaging “fetishes” for liberty, commitment and responsibility within community, and competent management of shared resources and institutions.

You: “Watch for an amazing surge in the popularity of boxing if an American of even Cooney’s meagre talent, weight and pigmentation were to emerge today.”

I would agree; my view is simply that it is more productive to understand such a reaction (among white Americans) as relatively reflexive and tribal, than it would be to condemn such a reaction as “collectivist”, as you and Oliva responded to michael (who seems to be addressing Cleveland, not the press). We’re individuals, to be sure, but social animals to our core. Pure individualists are a hazard if they live in a real community.

mpolzkill July 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

Me too, I was just giving you the business. I really like your stuff, even if I can’t figure out what it is exactly you’re proposing most of the time (that could be entirely my fault).

- – - – - – - – - – -

You touched on it before, TT. People who get so wrapped up in a pro team (the owners are kind of America’s version of African generals), just like people who go to Iraq to die for Halliburton, are SUCKERS!

I do feel for the Cleveland suckers, I was mostly talking about the press too, and I was kind of responding to about 750 other Michael comments on other forums.

Part one of a fascinating documentary where Baltimore suckers show their mixed feelings about Cleveland suckers:


- – - — – – -

That “purity” must always be tempered with the acknowledgement and observance of everyone else’s negative rights. And pure collectivists are just plain more hazardous than any one loose cannon.

- – - – - – - – -

Thank you too, Tom, you’re a real gentleman.

TokyoTom July 13, 2010 at 3:32 am


Took a look at the first clip – wow, what an astonishing display of collectivism/community spirit among those B’moreans! Disgusting!

It’s our community instinct that can emotionally tie us into our sports teams, and leaves us wounded when team owners and star players behave as if they’re nothing but businessmen.

Guess we’re all just evil saps at heart!


PS: BTW, here was an unexpected take:

mpolzkill July 13, 2010 at 4:12 am



Now I think you’re just giving me the business. I almost completely (that’s not my idea of collectivism) agree with you, that’s why I prefer college sports (while it’s also got a lot of pressures compromising it).

This might be more of the kind of feelings you’re looking for from a player (of course, the media and the dean still irritate me):


- – - – - – - – -

My computer tells me that there is some malware uploading attempts going on at that link you gave me. I got the text copied though, so I’ll check it out. Thanks.

mpolzkill July 13, 2010 at 4:53 am

Thanks for the article Tom (see, one can’t even speak collectively about the media), now that’s what I’m on about. And it hits on what I think is the single greatest clue showing the real relationship between a lot of the rich and the government (the same thing, this is a plutocracy), and the poorest, dumbest and most ignorant: legalized gambling. Their houses were like slot machines, too (and back to Jimi).

Yeah, saps, sorry. Evil? No. Not even these saps:


Evil *doing*, yes.

S.M. Oliva July 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Hmm. This sounds like a bunch of gibberish. Sorry, I really don’t see a point here.

But I would note my criticism was directed primarily at the media, not Cleveland fans.

TokyoTom July 12, 2010 at 1:52 am

Oliva, thanks for troubling to respond to my gibberish. Your reaction is understandable: not only was I blogging with my eyes half closed, but I wasn’t speaking in the cant we recite in this church ==>thus, what I say D O E S N O T C O M P U T E

Do you really have such a hard time in seeing in the visceral reactions of so many in Cleveland (and elsewhere) a natural tribal response? And a response that naturally mirrors behavior in other arenas, including LvMI blogs? This theme is something I’ve commented on several times: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=watermelon

You may well disapprove of the disapprobation directed at LeBron (I agree with you in part), but it behooves you to recognize it – and the response that you express and evoke here – as a manifestation of the moral suasion to which social man resorts instinctively. Those who are opponents of statism should understand the natural (and non-statist) ways in which communities of individuals and families coordinate behavior and keep each other in check. As I noted, libertarians such as Richman and Callahan (also Yandle) have expressly advocated deliberate use of moral suasion – as opposed to the state – as a means of productively addressing shared problems.


Stephan Kinsella July 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

This is scattered. Lebron owes “Cleveland” nothing at all. He did nothing wrong whatsoever. Here Rand was right: we have a right to live for ourselves. He provided services for payment; both sides are even. His moving to Florida is not a whit different than someone changing jobs, or firing someone. People are free to associate with whoever they want.

TokyoTom July 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

Stephan, I understand where you’re coming from, but your comments are simply unresponsive to any point I’ve made. I’m not arguing about LeBron’s formal “rights” at all. Focus!

Anyone who doesn’t see the tensions between human nature and principles as we move from families to close communities to extremely loose webs has gotta be robot.


Guard July 12, 2010 at 3:27 am

Have to agree with you Tokyo. Any economic exchange is never simply a contractual exchange of goods. All depend heavily on the overall satisfaction or total buying experience. That is, the social interaction involved in the exchange. People will pay big, big money for a positive buying experience, which is often worth more to them that the product itself. This buying experience is a leveraging of social capital.
Bottom line for any entertainer is to maintain the fan base. If a professional sports figure shows contempt for the social web in which he works, he will lose fans, his team will lose ticket sales, and his value will be reduced. Exceptional talent will help prevent or offset his losses. Any sales person knows all this, the social interaction, not the product, makes the sale.

TokyoTom July 13, 2010 at 5:04 am

Thanks, Guard; nice to have a little agreement.

mpolzkill July 13, 2010 at 5:13 am

Professional sports fans behave more like life-long battered wives than any kind of customers I’m aware of.

TokyoTom July 13, 2010 at 5:45 am

Sure; there’s that element (is that what the Jimi link was for?), but there can also be alot of good community bonding and ritual: tailgate parties, marching bands, grist for water cooler conversations, etc.

The urges that drive this are part of our nature and are not themselves bad, even as it lends us all more than a little susceptible to often cynical manipulation (and yes, “betrayal” can at times be the appropriate word) by sports team owners, reporters, althetes, school administrators, etc.


mpolzkill July 13, 2010 at 6:01 am

No, the Jimi was: don’t get too attached to castles made of sand. That reminds me of something else a lot of people in this country could turn to and invest in as more and more it dawns on them, the cheap gaudy near-nothingness of the ersatz culture that corporatism has given them: some old-time religion.

“…a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams
rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with
a great crash.”

Bruce Koerber July 11, 2010 at 7:16 pm

As the squeeze tightens the places that have relative advantages will succeed while the lesser ones will fade and maybe perish.

Relative advantages:
1). less economic terrorism,
2). more entrepreneurial wisdom.

Jake July 12, 2010 at 12:00 am

Meh, the fans in Cleveland would think in a collectivist mind set. That is how sports have always been portrayed. But that doesn’t disqualify the fact that Lebron James is a narcissist. We are talking about the same Lebron James that called HIMSELF the “Chosen One” and “King James”. He stated his destiny to be the greatest player in the history of the game. That cannot happen now with his move to the Miami Heat, a team that cannot even be called “his”. He blew off any chance to become what he himself stated he was going to be, even though I thoroughly believe he still thinks he can become the greatest. He cowered away from competition. This, and his narcissistic thinking of no matter what he does people will always think of him as the greatest, is what has caused most of the uproar. I could care less about him leaving Cleveland, because in this age of free agency, players leave all the time. It’s his view himself and the fact that he wouldn’t face the challenge that I am most disappointed in. But the fact that he grew up without a father figure, and the most winningest in the sport, and in most of life, did speaks volume.

Joe July 12, 2010 at 7:49 am

Nothing which has been said to the individual choice made by LeBron is necessarily untrue, especially when approached through the lens of a business decision. However, the response by Cleveland fans is less about a collectivism on the part of the fans, and more about a more deep seated feeling and narrative about what it means to be from Cleveland or to be a die hard fan of Cleveland sports teams. Nowhere else in the United States, likely not in the world, is there a city which has witnessed so much heartbreak, disillusion, and emotional deflation regarding the trials and tribulations of its sports teams. Simply Google the terms “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” “Red Right 88,” or even something less focused, such as “what it means to be a Cleveland fan,” and you will begin to see where the underlying roots of this recent emotional outburst are truly coming from.

That being said, the larger narrative of collectivism in regard to athletes by the media, as postulated by the author, is spot on on worth further examination then next time another circus of this type erupts on ESPN and the like.

Ryan July 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

Another great article, Mr. Oliva. I’m impressed at your ability to apply Rand’s views of racism-qua-tribalism to an every-day example we can all understand. I have often wondered where all the “modern day Ayn Rands are,” by which I mean that Rand wrote a lot of compelling articles that interpreted current events through a very deep ethical/philosophical lens. Articles like this make you one of my favorite of the Mises Blog writers. Well done.

Eric July 12, 2010 at 8:25 am

Jake, he faced the challenge for seven years. Lebron lead a group of mediocre players to the best record in the league two years running. How did he cower from competition? You sound silly. You are really disappointed that he won’t live his life by the narrative you and others like you had the nerve to write for him. He very well maybe an egomaniac, but you’re in that box too. You’ve just proved the very point of the article.

Jake July 15, 2010 at 7:46 am

How did he cower from the competition? He went to hide behind Dwyane Wade’s coattails. He could’ve easily gone to Chicago, been the leader of that team, and would’ve won multitudes of titles. And just for the record, none of the fans laid out the narrative where he was going to be best in history of the game. He did. He said he was “The Chosen One” and “King James”. Everyone else just followed along.

And for another example of him cowering from competition, watch Game 5 of this past year’s Boston-Cleveland series. He quit. Completely quit.

Eric July 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

I almost forgot, great article as always Skip. Interesting take on narcissism being a code word for selfish. I have a slightly different take. When hearing the claims of narcissism that word was being used instead of “uppity”

Matt July 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

THANK YOU! It’s about time someone offered a rational point of view on this insanity. I really hope that LeBron gets a chance to read your analysis. Professional basketball – like all pro sports – is entertainment, pure and simple. Pro athletes get paid millions because they have the rare ability to get millions of people to watch the same TV channel or gather in the same stadium at the same time, buy the same shoe, drink the same soft drink, etc. Their only obligation to their fans is to be entertaining enough to get their attention, and I, for one, think that watching LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh own the league Harlem-Globetrotter-style will be entertaining as hell.

mpolzkill July 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

“own the league Harlem-Globetrotter-style”

You sure got that right, with LeBron’s traveling, haha.

Yeah, really, TT needs to think about the word “professional” here, and maybe stick with World Cup (pro, but different) or possibly college or high school sports.

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Mises.org always puts out unique perspective.

mma nyc August 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm

yeah man, imo this has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of racism. I think it’s safe to say that is not an issue here.

Lebron for the most part is acting like a fool and it’s embarrassing for the people who’ve supported him.

I can understand his overinflated ego…that happens a lot with stardom, and i believe such mindset can actually help an athlete perform better, however as we see there are consequences cause now people just think he’s a jerk. oh well, at least he’s a rich jerk :)

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